I miss Sarah Palin. I was bummed when she decided not to run for president the last time around. It would have been hard to find a challenger to Barack Obama less funny than Mitt Romney (notwithstanding Barrett Foa's outstanding "I Believe" Romney-musical spoof), and because the president himself isn't exactly a barrel of laughs, we ended up with one of the unfunniest (and also angriest) White House races in history.
That opportunity is lost, but it's still fun when Palin injects herself into the news. She's done so this week by jumping to the defense of Duck Dynasty's patriarch Phil Robertson, who remarkably got himself suspended from his own smash-hit reality TV show by extolling the virtues of the vagina over the anus in the pages of GQ (in an interview by the always-excellent Drew Magary). Robertson was professing, one might even say over-professing, his ignorance as to the appeal of gay sex -- he put it this way:
"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes . . . But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
There's more there. Take that, anus! Robertson went on to provide a less bizarre, more Biblical explanation for his opposition to homosexuality. Then, in a separate piece on the GQ site, he also offered a 20th-century America version of Holocaust denial.
He said that as a young person in pre-civil rights Louisiana, he "never . . . saw the mistreatment of any black person" and that black people were happy (happier?) back then:
"Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
After all of this came out, A&E suspended the show more or less immediately amid a blizzard of "That guy we just spent years turning into a rock star sure as heck doesn't represent the views of our ad-sales department!" denials. This of course immediately inspired howls of protest from Duck fans and conservative politicians alike.
Sarah Palin, ably staying in character in her new role as a professional media ambulance-chaser, was one of the first to rush to Robertson's defense. She posted a photo of herself with the Robertsons and tweeted the following:
"Free speech is endangered species; those 'intolerants' hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all."
Conservatives have always had trouble grasping the difference between public censorship and private enterprise. With a few exceptions, like whistleblower laws and National Labor Relations Board protections against being fired for off-site discussions about work conditions (exceptions that, in almost every case, conservatives bitterly opposed), there is no legal or constitutional right to free speech on private property.
You can be fired for calling your boss a dick, and you can just as easily be let go by a profit-seeking media company for imperiling its relationship with advertisers. And incidentally, this is the way true conservatives, and especially true hardcore speech advocates, have always wanted it.
Could you imagine the uproar if someone passed a law saying that Martin Bashir couldn't be bounced from a broadcast job for saying Sarah Palin was a good candidate to have feces shoved in her mouth? Now that would be censorship.
Remember, nobody heard a peep from Sarah Palin about free speech after that episode. Bashir earlier this year tiptoed across the line in an angry diatribe about Palin's invocation of slavery imagery, which she had somewhat amazingly used to describe the suffering (presumably white) middle Americans will feel when they are forced to pay for the "free stuff" the Obama administration is handing out, i.e., health care:
"Our free stuff today is being paid for today by taking money from our children and borrowing from China. When that money comes due and, this isn't racist, so try it, try it anyway, this isn't racist, but it's going to be like slavery when that note is due. Right? We are going to be beholden to a foreign master."
"And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."